Energy and Sustainability Services
Climate change is upon us. Whether you believe that describes Mother Nature or the political environment, climate change is definitely here. Effective July 1st, 2014, California Title 24 raised the minimum energy performance thresholds in non-residential buildings by 30% from the previous code cycle. This aggressive increase is a step towards California’s ultimate goal of building Net Zero Non-Residential Buildings by 2030. Many other states look towards California’s environmental standards as models for their own, so these standards could spread.
Over the last 30 years, the other 49 states have seen an increase in energy consumption per capita of about 50%. California with the largest economy, has stayed flat over the same period and ranks 47th in consumption per capita. So why the aggressive push to greater energy efficiency? According to the CEC, Californians will have a more stable electrical grid and save 711 GWh a year in non-residential buildings alone. In addition to the energy savings, a study of the last code change showed a reduction in life cycle costs to the buildings themselves. This can increase net operating income (NOI) which means energy savings is as good for business as it is for the environment. Several studies from the EPA, USGBC, BOMA and others show increased market value of efficient buildings.
To understand what the code change could mean to you, we have to first understand how it works. The latest Title 24 going into effect now is the 2013 code. It sets efficiency standards in California for commercial and residential construction in both new and existing buildings. If you engage in such construction, you may trigger the code and you will be required to meet various prescriptive requirements; furthermore, the California Green Building Code (CALGreen) thresholds also contain indoor air quality, water conservation, material and resource, and energy related minimum requirements. Early feedback suggest increases of approximately 15-25% for electrical costs and 15% for related mechanical costs depending on the scope and status of the existing space.
For CALGreen, the two triggers for code compliance in tenant improvements are:
- 1,000 square feet (sf) of additions; or,
- $200,000 valuation in alterations
For new buildings, there are 5 new forms that must be submitted during Design Review prior to getting your permit. What this means is that Title 24 requirements (and CalGreen for new buildings) need to be considered during the initial planning of a construction job and integrated throughout the entire process.
While there are many requirements that you need to be aware of if you do fall under Title 24, here are just a few, dramatically simplified, points to consider:
- Will you have greater than 50kVA total load? There are electrical service requirements for sub-metering and separating services by load type.
- Are you putting in Electric Vehicle Chargers? There are specific separation and sub-metering requirements for chargers.
- Planning a TI in a building built prior to 1994 and valued at $150,000? You may be required to change all your plumbing fixtures – you will need to have compliant fixtures by 2019 anyway.
- Planning a job over 10,000sf? You’ll need a Third Party PE (Professional Engineer) to sign off.
- Adding or changing HVAC or water heating? Third party Commissioning may be a requirement for you. (No, the contractor can’t do it anymore.)
- Installing a new HVAC package unit? Look for 14 SEER, an economizer with alarm, and third party performance testing.
- Thinking you need to relocate or remove a few lighting fixtures for that renovation? You may have to upgrade the entire area to dimmable, daylight sensing, automatically controlled lighting fixtures.
- Building a new suite? Plan on putting those controls above on all lighting (including hallways and even your parking garage.)
Looking on the bright side of sustainability, commissioning lighting and HVAC systems should prevent rework and create a happier occupant. With better controls and higher efficiency equipment, the building will certainly be worth more as well. Finally, what if you could operate the same building for a dollar a square foot less than the one you built last year? What would that do for your bottom line? There’s a lot of real financial value in being a good corporate citizen (even if it is forced on you by code!) Perhaps we should embrace these changes for the long term value they bring and really start focusing on the returns rather than solely on the first cost of construction.